Over the years, I’ve noticed that most advice for selecting your wedding photographer focuses on finding your style and asking photographers a list of questions.
And yet there are so few recommendations about how to plan your photography budget or talk about money – as though price isn’t going to be a huge factor for your decisions!
I have some suggestions to keep in mind as you explore wedding photographers. My hope is that you will have a better sense of how to plan your wedding photography budget going forward and how to consider wedding photography in your budget priorities.
And I also have one BIG tip that will really benefit couples who are sorting out their photography budget!
What is a reasonable price for wedding photography?
First – who is going to decide what reasonable means for you? Is it an average? Or what your friends paid?
Knowing what the average for wedding photography is doesn’t help you set YOUR budget. Knowing what your co worker paid for wedding photography doesn’t help you set YOUR budget.
The only way to decide what a reasonable budget would be for your wedding photography is to work with your partner to set priorities and expectations for your wedding.
Will photography be central to how you remember your wedding? Do you want to have family portraits, or just some casual documentation? Do you want a photographer that can offer advice and coordinate your photography, or is that something you can handle? Are you comfortable with having moments not documented because you have a less experienced photographer?
If photography is a high priority, then you should consider spending a higher part of your time and energy and money on finding the right photographer.
My huge tip: How do you know if photography will be important to you?
As you are planning, talk with other people.
Ask them about the experience they had with their wedding photographer.
You aren’t looking for recommendations (although that can be awesome), but instead about theirexperience with wedding photography.
Do they have photos on their desk from their wedding? How they interact with their photography after the wedding will tell you a lot about how they view it as part of their lives.
Did their photographer help them feel comfortable? Many people have stories of photographers just going through the motions, or not paying enough attention to how the couple feels.
Were they able to enjoy their wedding? A wedding photographer can help make family photos flow easily, problem solve on how to make the timeline flow well, and generally act as a resource for managing your wedding logistics. Or a wedding photographer might not do any of those things
Did their photographer have enough experience? Weddings are constantly evolving days – the weather changes, the lighting changes, people have emotional interactions in terrible lighting, and some photographers have enough experience to document amazing moments in all those situations. A less experienced photographer will be able to shoot within certain parameters, but might struggle with dark spaces or harsh sunlight or quick location changes.
Ask the big question
Now that you and your partner have thought about your priorities, and talked with others about how their wedding photography priorities worked out, you are ready to ask the one big question:
Do you wish you had paid less for wedding photography?
I have never heard of anyone answering “yes” to this question. I have never heard of anyone who has heard of anyone who has said “yes” to this question.
Many wedding regrets are about not prioritizing wedding photography: choosing a newer photographer, having a friend of the family try photographing the wedding, prioritizing quantity over quality, etc.
Wedding photography is definitely a service where you get what you pay for.
Obviously, there are constraints to anyone’s budget – just because I’d like a 15K photographer doesn’t mean that is going to be the right choice for where I spend my money. That is why discussing priorities and budget with your partner is the first step.
Even if you have a small budget, you can consider this advice for maximizing your photography experience:
- Hire the best photographer you can afford.
- When deciding between two photographers at different price points, its better to have a high quality photographer than a photographer who can give you the kitchen sink! A better photographer with a smaller priced package is better than getting more for the same price – you can always purchase an album later, but you can never make your photography better
- When deciding between two photographers at similar price points, consider the experience you want to have – do you want a photographer who is “hands on” and can take charge? Do you want a photographer who will whisk you away for hours for romantic images? Do you want a photographer who will be a fly on the wall while you enjoy your day?
- If you feel overwhelmed, take a breather and look back at your priority list.